By technical editor Matt Allard:
I recently purchased the SLR MAGIC 50mm T0.95 Leica M Mount lens while on a work trip to Hong Kong. I thought it was about time I did some xmas giving and actually do a review of the lens.
This particular lens was originally made for aerial filming specialists Space Cam to use on modified RED cameras for helicopter work. Unlike some of the other SLR Magic products this is not a toy lens! I can attest to this lens being made to the highest possible standards.
I have been very impressed with the performance and look of this lens. Its ultra sharp wide open which in itself is amazing. There is also very little if any noticeable chromatic aberration. Now this is normally a problem with very fast lenses. It seems very hard for lens manufacturers to get sharpness combined with lack of chromatic aberration. SLR MAGIC seems to have got this lens spot on.
It is amazingly well built, probably even more solidly made than my Zeiss ZF2 glass. Solid build quality does come with a trade off though – this lens is quite heavy, but in saying that I found it still very useable.
The lens has a factory de-clicked aperture which is a big bonus for me. Strangely though the aperture is at the front of the lens and you focus at the back – this is something that I’m still getting used to.
It also features an inbuilt metal lens hood that can extend out (which I forgot to show in the video). The lens also comes in a nice box and includes a 0.9 ND filter which is very handy.
The image from this lens is nothing short of superb, like I said it is tack sharp even wide open. It also has a beautiful soft fall off when it comes to highlights and out of focus areas. It worried me when I first bought this lens about how it’s images would cut in with footage shot on my Zeiss glass. It actually inter cuts very well. It has a similar contrast and look to my Zeiss lenses.
I keep finding myself pulling this lens out of my bag as its just so damn nice. It is a great Interview lens, allowing you to shoot pretty wide open while maintaining sharp focus. The ability also in tight places or situations to completely soften the background is a big plus for me. A couple of times this lens has saved my butt. I was shooting the World Match Racing Championship (yacht racing) earlier this month and one of the biggest names in the sport announced his retirement out of the blue. We had to grab him for an interview straight away, the sun had just gone down and I had no access to lights nor the time to use them. I had to do this fast. I put on the 50mm and opened it up without having to use a super high ISO (I think I had it at 1250). Magically the lens managed to turn night into day. The producer was truly amazed at what I had done.
This lens retails for about $3000 US so its not a cheap but for what you get in terms of build quality and performance its worth every cent. Now there are other T0.95 50mm lenses available from SLR MAGIC in other lens mounts but be aware that they are not the same lens as this one. This one only comes in Leica M mount.
The one I have is the non RF coupled version (The RF version is for Range Finder stills cameras and is more expensive). Don’t let the Leica M mount bother you too much. There are lots of adapters out there which enable you use this lens on a variety of cameras.
Specs are one thing but proof is always in the pudding. This lens delivers on it’s promise and is one that I will continue to use on a regular basis.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Team Leader Cameras, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 22 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has won 14 ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) awards. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony FS700 and F3 as well as Canon DSLRs.